The stories are similar. Both men transferred classified material. Pollard, a civilian Naval Intel Analyst, was also working for Israel, our ally. Do you keep secrets from your friends? We do, and with good reason. Kim Philby. You may not recognize the name, but Kim was a British subject, member of MI6 and various British services, was also under the employ of the NKVD and KGB. He was able to use his contacts to transfer American Intel to the Soviets. From him we learned we can not police other agencies, so some information should not be shared. There are things we don’t share with Israel, and vice versa. It continues today. Just recently Mossad operatives were using covers as CIA operatives. That one really pissed off the folks at Langley, they had been using Mossad identities as cover.
Pollard’s defense was that we should not keep secrets from our allies. Had he read his copy of the National Security Act, or any of the dozens of documents he had signed in obtaining a security clearance, he would have known that he did not possess the authority to declassify material, or to determine to whom he may release such material. Oh, that’s right, he had. He was working for Mossad. But he had the best of intentions.
Right about the time Pollard was pleading guilty to espionage charges, Bradley Manning was born. Bradley had an interesting childhood, his father was with Naval Intel, and his mother was from Wales. When his father left the Navy and took a job in IT, the traveling associated with his job led to marital problems. After his parents divorced, Bradley moved with his mother to Wales, returning to the states when he felt that she was too ill to cope with him. He enlisted in the Army, and despite a variety of issues, received a TS/SCI security clearance and was deployed to Iraq in 2009.
Bradley has an odd personality. I am not a psychiatrist, but his history shows a number of “stability” issues. He displayed a strong personality when he was younger, declaring himself an atheist and refusing to say the words “under God” when reciting the pledge of allegiance. He told friends in America he was gay, but in Wales denied it, then lived as an openly gay man before enlisting in the Army. He claimed to have a nervous breakdown in Basic Training, but fought being discharged.
Bradley decided that he should release classified material to wikileaks, because if only the people back in the states knew what was going on, they would put an end to the war. At least that’s one of his stories. Being a rather bright young man who created his first web page when he was ten, he didn’t know that www stands for World Wide Web. But of course nobody in Al Qaeda looks at the internet anyway.
Bradley Manning is essentially using the same defense as Pollard, that he was entitled to declassify and distribute classified information because it was the right thing to do. It was not. Information is classified for a number of reasons, many beyond the understanding of a twenty five year old private first class. He did not just reveal a page or two about a particular event, he released gigabytes.
The information itself covered a variety of issues. But back to why, if it matters, information is classified. If I know that you know something I only told one other person, I know how you know. Releasing information gained through human assets reveals identities, not only of the source but also possibly the handler. There is no due process for collaborators or spies during wartime. Bradley’s releases may have cost untold lives of intel resources. Some information reveals strategies. Knowing your opponent’s strategy allows you an upper hand. Bradley’s releases may have cost untold lives on the battlefield. Some information reveals capabilities and technology. Once again, Bradley’s releases may continue to cost untold lives, both military and civilian.
Some people feel that his punishment does not fit his crimes. Last I checked the penalty for treason is death. He was well aware of the offense he was committing and the consequences. He didn’t just walk in off the street and was handed reams of classified information. Despite his boyish appearance, he is not a naive innocent child. He is not a whistle blower. He is not a Grey Hat hacker. He is not a persecuted homosexual.
Bradley Manning is a traitor, and should be imprisoned until fully debriefed, then executed.
Not that there is any likelihood of that happening. Despite popular opinion, America does not execute many people, forty three last year in a country of three hundred million. The last execution for espionage was in 1953, the Rosenbergs. Most spies in America receive prison sentences, Edward Lee Howard escaped to the Soviet Union, Robert Hansen, and Aldrich Ames, are both in prison for the remainder of their lives, as most likely John Walker will be, even though his plea deal saved him from a life without parole sentence (it did not protect him from throat cancer). The Judge in Bradley’s case has already stated that his sentence will be reduced by 112 days due to his “harsh treatment” when he was arrested, I don’t know how that would work with a life sentence. The people he betrayed will receive no leniency, although if they are Chinese citizens their families will no longer be charged for the bullet used to execute them.
I take this personally. I knew some of the faces that Ames and Hansen erased, we will never know how many faces will never be seen again due to Bradley, but they may very well be faces that you know.